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It's not just for teens. Learn how to use this social media tool to make your marketing more creative.

If you spend time with almost any high school or college student, you will see Snapchat in play. This enormously popular social media tool lets someone send a “snap” directly to another individual that typically includes customizable photos, videos and text. That snap disappears 10 seconds after it is received, unless the user takes a screenshot. Snapchat reports that more than 60 percent of 13- to 34-year-olds in the U.S. use it, and more than 100 million of them check Snapchat daily.

While it may sound like a novelty, Snapchat is actually a powerful marketing medium. Its slow adoption among businesses creates a golden opportunity for your company to get a jump on the competition.

Review the following Snapchat uses to see if they spark ideas for how your small business can engage with this social media tool.

Showcase what you offer

Snapchat videos let you showcase your products or services with more creative flair than you might use elsewhere. Enlivening your short videos with personality and creativity will encourage people to share them with friends. The additions include text, doodles, fast forward, slow motion and lots of other effects that are genuinely easy to use. For example, a restaurant may snap videos of food preparation with a short phrase explaining what makes the dish so outstanding, or a clothing boutique could show employees modeling prom dresses in front of the dressing room mirror with an accompanying doodle or a few slow-motion twirls to highlight some aspect of the dresses.

Raise your visibility

Posting videos on Snapchat is free, but you can also pay Snapchat to feature your content on its Discover page, where users can flick through content that is published daily. On the Discover page, your company can post a snap to showcase your brand or convey your expertise alongside companies of all sizes. This is the spot on Snapchat where your company would post a snap about your company’s lifestyle, culture or activities. This snap can promote your identity and the unique strengths of your business. Keep in mind that Snapchat is regarded as a very laid-back app, so creating the aura of a “cool” company is essential.

Run promotions

Coupons or promotions shared through social media give users extra reason to pay attention to your business, and Snapchat’s features make it easy to share a deal. Assemble a coupon by taking a picture of the discounted item, write a caption detailing the discount, and add it to your story. A nail salon could snap a photo of its newest nail art design and write, “Show us this picture and get half off your manicure.” Or, just before lunchtime, snap an image of your lunch special with a note that it comes with a free drink if you show the cashier the image at checkout.

Prompt conversations

Snapchat is a two-way experience, so ask for feedback on the content you show, and encourage people to contribute. For example, if you display a photo of a dish your restaurant made, ask for feedback (to be sent to your account), or for people to send in their own recipe ideas/modifications. When you send a photo, attach a question to it that may prompt replies. These may generate friendly engagement between you and your customers and also yield valuable feedback. Ask for feedback on items in your store, or for people to create their own version of something. The responses you get could be illuminating, and this kind of interaction will help your customers feel more connected to your business.

Demonstrate expertise

Creating videos and posting text on social media sites is a great way to demonstrate your expertise and position yourself as a helpful resource for customers. On Snapchat, you can find new ways to creatively provide this advice. A bike store could show a series of photos with captions that shows step-by-step instructions on how to fix a busted bicycle chain, or a cosmetics store could do the same to demonstrate how to achieve a particular look. Because communications are brief on Snapchat, it’s best to find simple, memorable tips to share. Try out Snapchat’s array of creative filters and features to liven up your tips, but ensure you aren’t going overboard and obscuring the message of your advice. Providing helpful content should take precedence over wowing users with colorful add-ons.

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